Joining DockYard

By: Estelle DeBlois

Six months ago today, I signed the letter officially accepting the offer to join DockYard as a Senior Developer. It was the best decision I could have made.

When I announced my resignation to my previous employer, he jokingly said that if they had known choosing Ember as a new client-side framework would eventually make me want to pursue a new Ember-focused opportunity, they would have chosen Angular.

I first started dipping my toes into Ember in late Spring 2013, some time after Ember 1.0 RC3 was released. The Ember.js community was undeniably very active and vibrant. That following June, I attended my first Boston Ember meetup, where Dan Gebhardt shared tips on testing Ember apps, and Alex Navasardyan gave an introduction to Ember Data. That’s how I came to know of DockYard.

Soon, some names started to emerge as familiar names within the community. Brian Cardarella became known within our dev team as the one who wrote ember-validations, which we were using in our application. Robert Jackson was another name that kept popping up on my Twitter and GitHub feeds. Call me a nerd if you will, but I was as excited to have The Robert Jackson accept a fix that I submitted to ember-dev later that year to make builds pass on Windows (with Rake at the time) as I would have been meeting a film celebrity.

DockYard further reinforced its reputation by organizing the Wicked Good Ember conference in Boston, in June of 2014, which I of course attended.

Needless to say, when Brian reached out to me last July about joining the team, I saw it as an opportunity that was really hard to pass on. Logistically, I may have been better off staying where I was. I had a 40 min commute. Joining DockYard would have doubled my commuting time. I was also comfortable with the position I was holding, building out cool D3.js charts with Ember, leading the development of new products, and getting myself involved in all kinds of engineering team growth efforts. But then there was DockYard. I went with my gut feeling instead and left the warm and comfortable seat to face the exciting, though new and scary thing that was DockYard.

Scary? Yes. From everything DockYard had done for the Boston community to the talent behind its wheel, I was absolutely terrified of not fitting in, that it was too elite for me. I checked out the team page on the website and read everyone’s biography a number of times, trying to picture what kind of co-workers I would be interacting with daily. No matter how great the projects can be, culture is a big thing. To my delight, the culture at DockYard is one that resonates the most with me in my 10 years of professional career.

DockYard has a well-balanced team of young, bright minds and more seasoned developers, and I embrace that. There is none of that “I am better than you” bullshit. Those I once viewed as Ember Gods and would have been intimidated to talk to have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. In the past, whenever I was involved in the hiring process for Engineering, I had always wondered where all the great developers were. Well, they’re here, happily employed at places like DockYard. If there is one thing I can say about the company, it’s that it’s doing something right to attract an amazingly talented and diverse crew. I’ve been particularly impressed with our designers. It’s nice as a developer to work on such nifty UIs!

Doing consultancy work was new to me, and I had been warned about what I was throwing myself into, that I’d end up losing focus on quality and just hack solutions together quickly to meet client deadlines. I don’t doubt that those kinds of situations can creep up, but so far, I’ve found quite the opposite in the two projects that I’ve been involved in. People care deeply about delivering clean, maintainable, and well-tested code, and they’ve been especially adept at maintaining those principles throughout the life of a project.

It’s also refreshing to be able to work on a diverse portfolio of projects. In the first few months since joining DockYard, I worked on a Rails and Ember app that incorporated some really cool geolocation functionality. I am now working on something that is unlike any other app I have ever developed. The project includes Arduino code, Ember.js, and Node WebKit (NW.js).

The best, of course, is DockYard’s mindset towards open source. I always look forward to our “DockYard days” on Fridays to hack on code, blog (this is my first one!), contribute back to the community in some ways, or just to level up our craftsmanship.

And as much as everyone works really hard, we also know when to have fun, be it through Risk game tournaments, friendly games of Carcassonne (or, as some would say, “Casserole”), or world exploring and building on Minecraft.

Finding a job that you’ll love can be hard. Finding a team that you’ll love working with can be twice as hard. And sometimes, it’s okay to leave behind what is comfortable and secure, in light of something promising, yet unknown. You may be pleasantly surprised.